San Jose Sharks Blessed With A Two-Game Opportunity Against The Red Wings Heading Into Game Three

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 01: Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks gets ready for the start of their game against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 1, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

With San Jose headed into Detroit for games three and four at Joe Louis Arena, and a 2-0 series lead under their belt, the importance of winning at least one game away from the cozy confines of HP Pavilion could not be more pronounced.

For starters, the Sharks will have a very hungry Wings team on their hands, a veteran club who has made their way around the block far too many times before to forget about the local bakery where icing is put on the cake and bread is buttered. Randy Hahn's call of Patrick Marleau's goal in that game three overtime probably still echoes in some swiftly forgotten corner of The Joe, a place where the dream of another Stanley Cup championship curled up to sleep for another year. Despite the offensive onslaught that ensued in game four, that 3-0 hole put Detroit in a position where they were fighting history and fighting mathematics.

And if that locker room understands anything, it is history and mathematics.

Which isn't to say all hope is lost when a team drops the first three games-- one only has to look at Boston-Philadelphia last season to realize it can be done. And with the amount of in-game comebacks we've seen already this postseason, it's hard to take anything off the table. Osama bin Laden was brought to justice this week after all.

History will be made indeed.

But with a must-win on the table for the Wings, and the Sharks holding a 2-0 series lead that is both a Nicklas Lidstrom and Benn Ferriero shot away from being a completely different story, taking a look at the historical data surrounding NHL series seems like a good way to fill the restless anticipation with something that, at least at face value, can be deemed somewhat productive.

History, mathematics, and run on sentences. The previous paragraph has the latter. The following paragraphs contain the former.

First, of course, comes the importance of tomorrow night. If San Jose manages to steal Game Three at The Joe for the second straight postseason, they'll be looking at an extremely favorable outcome no matter which way you slice the pie-- the historical juggernaut that is a 3-0 series lead with home-ice advantage.

The higher seeded team (i.e. the one with home-ice advantage) has gone won their second round series by the tune of 46-2 in this circumstance, good for a 95.8 winning percentage historically. When you expand your parameters to include every series throughout the course of NHL history (all rounds including the second), you're met with a 125-2 record (or a 98.4 winning percentage).

If the Sharks lose game three, the historical data implies a more difficult road lies ahead. That being said, semifinals have still smiled upon the high seed holding a 2-1 series lead with that advantage guiding them to a 40-19 record (67.8 W%). Every series in NHL history featuring a high seed with this a 2-1 lead have been even more impressive, with teams going 176-56 (75.9 W%).

This hypothetical scenario takes us to game four, which should be considered another must-win for Detroit regardless of game three's outcome. For high seeds who take a 3-1 series lead the benefits have been considerable. In the second round the leaders have gone 42-3 (93.3 W%) and overall they have gone 144-12 (92.3 W%).

What these numbers are telling us is that San Jose has a great opportunity this week. And while dropping two in a row at Joe Louis Arena wouldn't necessarily precipitate the rise of the reaper, the fact that a 2-2 series essentially becomes a coin flip is something that is clearly less advantageous in their attempt to advance past a talented Wings team.

Thanks to whowins.com for all of the data in this post.

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